Ethiopia Opposition Leader Calls for New Vote

Ethiopian women wait to cast their vote
Ethiopian women wait to cast their vote at a poling station in Mojo, 70 km south of Addis Ababa, 23 May 2010. Photo: AP

VOA News

An opposition leader in Ethiopia has rejected the results from parliamentary elections that gave the ruling party an overwhelming victory and called for a new vote.

Hailu Shawl, leader of the All Ethiopians Unity party, told reporters Wednesday intimidation and fraud influenced Sunday’s election.

The United States and the European Union have both said the election appeared to fall short of international standards for a free and fair poll.

The latest results from Ethiopia’s election board show the EPRDF coalition taking at least 499 seats in parliament – 93 percent of the total – compared to just one seat for the main opposition coalition, Medrek.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer voiced disappointment that U.S. officials were limited in their ability to observe voting and were unable to travel outside the capital on election day.

The European Union observer mission also criticized the polls, saying the conditions for the election were tilted in favor of the ruling party.

An EU statement said government resources were used to help the ruling coalition, and that state-owned media devoted more than 50 percent of all news coverage to the ruling party.  The EU chief observer, Thijs Berman, also noted the government blocked other news sources, including VOA broadcasts.

The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, said Tuesday the Ethiopian government took “clear and decisive steps” that ensured it would win the election.

Other opposition leaders have denounced the election results as fraudulent.  They say the ruling party controlled all aspects of the poll.

Sunday’s election was the first in Ethiopia since a disputed 2005 vote that led to violent unrest.